Marco and Heike Schmitz had just completed their tour of the national parks in southern Utah when they decided to visit "the large white building" in St. George, Utah, before returning home to Lubeck, Germany.
"We had never heard about the temple before," said Marco, who serves in the German Navy. "But we learned that many visitors come."On an overcast Saturday morning, they entered through the east gates of the temple grounds, took several pictures, then stepped into a new annex to the St. George Temple Visitors Center. They were greeted by missionaries and shown a rendering of the Freiburg Germany Temple.
"It's amazing how many visitors – many foreign – who pull up to the temple and step inside the grounds' east gate to take a few pictures, but never come inside the visitors center," said Elder Robert L. Simpson, an emeritus General Authority who is now director of the St. George Temple Visitors Center.
"They don't want to come in because of tight tour schedules, or because they are leery of tourist traps. They don't realize that it is free and time requirements for the presentations are flexible."
To make it more inviting for tourists to become acquainted with the temple and the Church, an annex to the visitors center was built closer to the east gate. The new facility was dedicated July 7.
The aim of the annex, according to Elder Simpson, was to make it convenient for visitors to step out of the heat and into a nice building for a short explanation.
The annex, like the visitors center, captures some of the architectural features of the temple in its own design, including the arched windows and white walls. It is connected to the main visitor's center by a breezeway.
"This building," said Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Seventy and former president of the Utah South Area, "was designed to be purposely simple, but functional."
One side of the annex, for instance, opens to the temple with large windows, while the opposite side houses a large display of the 49 operating temples of the Church.
There is also a display in the center of the room depicting the history of the temple with photos illustrating construction methods and tools.
In his remarks at the dedication, Elder Simpson pointed out how the annex was the result of a "vision of a prophet." He said President Gordon B. Hinckley stood on the steps of the former visitors center in the spring of 1995, which was located across the sidewalk from the new visitor center, and after surveying the area, said to raze the old center.
He said he also envisioned the possibility of a new building closer to the new visitors center, yet convenient to the gates of the temple to serve the same function as the old center.